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Insect dishes: entomophagy

Lifestyle / -

Insects are the most abundant animals on the planet and their meats are rich in protein, vitamins and low in fat. Their taste also seems to be pleasant. Why then do they not feature more often in our dishes?
With rare exceptions, all life is driven by a single power: solar power. Thanks to photosynthesis, it is captured by plants and, transferred to all animals along the food chain, assuming the thousand forms of different living beings.
Every year, solar energy produces a biomass - organic matter that we in the animal kingdom need to feed ourselves - equal to 104.9 * 1015 g, and thus every individual is in possession of an impressive and extremely diverse quantity of food. Yet most animals live in a state verging on starvation, and most importantly their diet is pretty dull. Carnivores eat almost exclusively meat and vegetarians love vegetables. And that’s not all: vegetarians often do not consume all plants, but rather just a few preferred ones. An example is the geranium butterfly that loves just this plant, shunning all others. If there is no geranium, the butterfly simply lets itself die. Omnivorous animals on the other hand are characterized by a varied diet and are quite rare and include rats, cockroaches, crows, pigs and a few others.

Our species is the undisputed champion of this type of food, with the ability to digest a large variety of food. Despite this almost unique ability, man is picky and does not eat certain potentially edible foods. I'm talking about insects that although abundant (more than 70% of the animal kingdom is an insect), rich in protein and low in fat are chosen by Man only sporadically, at least in the West.

Oriental and African dishes are renowned for insects that are often main ingredients. The Orientals love cicadas (especially females) coated with a batter and then fried in hot oil. While in Africa, you can eat a lot of bamboo moth larvae, preferably cooked on the grill. Africans love these larvae so much that they keep a box with them for making easy purchases at supermarkets. Even the ancient Romans loved insect cuisine and their dishes would consist of large wood-boring larvae (which fed on wood) cooked on hot stones and then topped with honey.
According to some experts, insects represent an excellent diet both from a dietetic and an organoleptic point of view. It appears that insects are very tasty. But why then are these little creatures not served on our plates? Certainly the fact that they are so difficult to breed did not help a widespread adoption: looking after a cow is definitely less expensive and more productive than the paltry amount obtainable from the farming of small six-legged animals. And to my mind, this is not an insignificant limiting factor, restricting insects from becoming a greater part of our diets. In the long run, given their undisputed nutritional benefits, these invertebrates may become a valuable compendium for our food intake.
Currently there is also another problem related to the edibility of insects: and it’s a legal one. As we know, the meat that we eat must be checked by a veterinarian; and veterinary experts specializing in the flesh of insects are quite rare, so finding legal insect meat is quite difficult.

The fruit and vegetable markets of the world

Culture / -

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Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India
© Jeremy Woodhouse/Blend Images/Corbis
Gonder, Ethiopia, Africa
© Gavin Hellier/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Phnom Penh Cambodia
© Marc Dozier/Hemis/Corbis
Trivandrum, India
© Neil Emmerson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
Devaraja market, Mysore, Karnataka, India
© Neil Emmerson/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis
City of Konya, Turkey, Central Anatolia
© Bruno Morandi/Corbis
Washington DC, USA
© Chris Parker/Design Pics/Corbis
Shekhawati, India
© 167/Alex Treadway/Ocean/Corbis

With their brilliant colors, fruit and vegetables markets represent all the Planet's biodiversity in just a few square meters, scattered across on the Planet, from India to Cambodia, and from the United States to Ethiopia.

Fighting inequality: President Lula’s Zero Hunger Program

Economy / -

Fame zero il modello Lula per la lotta alle diseguaglianze
©Bruno Ehrs/Corbis

Launched in 2003, the Brazilian president’s initiative has contributed to combating hunger in Latin America’s largest country. Today, its neighbors are looking with interest at the possibility of importing a similar model to help them achieve lasting social equality.

With over 50 million people rescued from hunger, Brazil’s "Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger) program, which was launched in 2003 by the then-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and featured radical measures in regard to agriculture, and schools, as well as support to the poorest families, with special attention to children. Among the outcomes: Brazil was able to reignite its economy, and has become a point of reference in the field worldwide.

Data from the FAO
The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) has certified that Brazil has achieved its development objectives in terms of fighting hunger, with the number of undernourished people being reduced by nearly 10 million, from 22.8 million a 13.6 million, in just twenty years. Lula’s government’s declared objective was to effect a 50 percent reduction in the number of its citizens suffering from hunger, between 1990 and 2015. According to the FAO’s figures, that percentage is currently 54%. In 1990, some 15 percent of Brazil’s population went hungry. At the present time, it is just under seven percent.

Actions taken
With a budget of 500 million US dollars, Brazil’s Zero Hunger project has successfully reduced hunger, especially in the country’s poorest areas. A two-fold strategy was pursued. The “Bolsa Família” provided direct financial aid to the most disadvantaged families, and access to micro-credit was increased. Meanwhile, food was distributed directly to the poorest, so as to provide them access to essential nutrients.
The project also included building rainwater cisterns in the semi-arid areas of the country, opening low-cost restaurants, teaching good nutritional practice in schools; vitamins and iron supplements were also distributed. In addition, the fight to combat hunger included helping family-farmers, with government aid for this rising from one to four million dollars.
The government ministers who coordinated the program were at pains to stress that this was not a mere philanthropic mission based on “hand-outs”, but a policy that would set the foundations for helping establish certain human rights that had, to date, not existed.

The outcomes of the Zero Hunger (Fome Zero) Project
A research study undertaken by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) highlighted a 20 percent reduction in social inequality in Brazil since 2001, while a report commissioned by the World Bank called attention to a significant reduction in child labor among the children in the families that qualified for the “Bolsa Familiar”.
While hunger continued to be an emergency for hundreds of millions of the world’s inhabitants, Latin America is the geographic area where most effort has been applied to addressing this challenge, with Lula’s initiative being a guiding light.

Exporting the Fome Zero project to other countries
Brazil’s neighbors are currently looking at how the Zero Hunger project might be applied to their own situation. In Venezuela, the government has launched a number of programs to combat hunger. The largest so far has been “Mision barrio adentro" (Mission Inside the Neighborhood), whose aim is to guarantee acceptable standards of food and health security in the most disadvantaged social contexts. While positive results have been reported in some of Venezuela’s favelas, the success-rate overall has been inconsistent. Argentina, Latin America’s second-largest country, has also launched a government program to combat hunger. This might seem somewhat incongruous, since the country, which already holds much potential for social innovation, has a population of just 40 million inhabitants, along with the potential for producing food for ten times that many.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

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